The Battle of Red Cliff (Chi bi) (2008)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||2008|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||John Woo|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English (Burned In)||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
This film The Battle of Red Cliff is the international theatrical cut of a massive Chinese historical epic known as Chi Bi or Red Cliff in Asia. I reviewed the Director's Cut version previously which is the five hour version. As you might expect from the title this film focuses on the final battle and does not include as much of the politics and lead up, the first hour or so is especially truncated in this version. It also includes a couple of extra things to help western audiences understand the story (or 'dumb it down' depending on your point of view). These are an American voiceover explaining some of the background which is especially prevalent toward the start of the film and titling on screen to indicate who major characters are as they appear. I certainly will admit that some early parts of the Director's Cut (which I watched first) are a little confusing if you don't know who the characters are, however, this is vastly outweighed by the beauty and epic quality of the long version. After watching the full version this one feels very rushed. I would certainly suggest that if you are interested in this film, the Director's cut is the one to see.
It is a very high quality production with excellent cinematography, wonderful fight choreography, a rousing and beautiful score and some excellent acting by a great cast of Asian actors including two of my favourites Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro. I was also impressed by an actor I was not aware of previously, Fengyi Zhang, who plays the devious Prime Minister Cao Cao. The film was directed by the great Chinese director, John Woo.
This film is being released in four different versions, with two on DVD and two on Blu-ray. The two different versions available on each format are the version I am reviewing here, the Asian or Director's Cut version which is split into two parts and the international theatrical version which is 'only' two and a half hour hours. You can find reviews of the two Blu-ray releases here and here.
The story is a famous part of China's history and this story and other related ones have been filmed before both for TV and the cinema. The story presented here is based on the history combined with a famous novel from China's literary history, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The film starts in 208AD with Prime Minister Cao Cao convincing the emperor that he needs to defeat two southern rebels who are threatening the dynasty. They are Liu Bei and Sun Quan, two regional lords from Southern China. The film indicates that the real reason Cao Cao initiated the war was that he wanted the wife of Sun Quan's Viceroy, Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) for himself and that the lords are not actually rebels. Liu Bei is initially badly defeated in battle by Cao Cao partially due to his desire to protect civilians. He is advised by a talented military strategist referred to in this version as Kongming (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who becomes his negotiating agent with Sun Quan. He was called Zhuge Liang in the Director's Cut. Liu Bei wants to form an alliance with Sun Quan against Cao Cao. Once the alliance is forged the story follows the ups and downs of both sides culminating in the final Battle of Red Cliff. The various skirmishes and battles are played out on land and also on the Yangtze River.
. There is also some wonderful imagery involving floating lanterns, banners, wind, pigeons and much more. This is a great film visually as well as from an auditory perspective through the wonderful score and other great sound effects. It is obviously mostly a war film and there is much violence and many gruesome deaths. Despite this, it can also be enjoyed by other audiences for its many other qualities.
I would highly recommend this film for lovers of Asian historical epics and epic war films more generally. If your interpersonal relationships can stand the strain, see the 5 hour 2 part version!
The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced widescreen.
The picture was very clear and sharp throughout although seemed just slightly less sharp than the Director's Cut. Shadow detail was also excellent with clear detail in the night action scenes.
The colour was magnificent with the rich costumes, claret red blood and colourful battlefield banners.
Artefacts included some occasional, minor MPEG artefacts. These were slightly more prevalent in this version than on the Director's Cut. To keep this in context these artefacts are much less prevalent here than most DVDs I have watched or reviewed recently.
The only issue of any note I had with this transfer is that the subtitles are burned in and quite small. Some lines flash by too quickly and others are blurry especially during camera pans. This obviously would not be an issue with a subtitle stream.
The layer change was not noticeable during playback. For some reason I could not get this disc to work in my DVD-ROM drive so I could not confirm its exact location.
The audio is excellent.
This DVD contains two audio options, a Mandarin (with English voiceover) Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and a Mandarin (with English voiceover) Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 224Kb/s.
Dialogue seemed clear and easy to understand throughout although my understanding of Mandarin is limited. There were no audio sync issues which I noticed.
The music consists of a magnificent score by Taro Iwashiro which is by turns delicate and lyrical and then rousing and exciting during action sequences.
The surround speakers are used constantly during actions scenes with the sounds of arrows flying all around during action scenes. Music and atmosphere is also relayed through the surround speakers.
The subwoofer is very active for drums, explosions, marching and the wonderful music.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu includes an introduction, music and minor animation. Scene selection is available.
A non 16x9 enhanced theatrical trailer.
The volume is quite low on this extra so prepare to turn the volume up. Woo talks quickly and excitedly about this film and his pride at making it, which is understandable. He also discusses the Chinese Film industry and why he returned to China to make this film. Decent but not spectacular.
In Mandarin with subs and some English voiceover. This consists of lots of little bits of on-set footage which chops and changes all the time with lots of black screens in between. Some interesting stuff but it is rather annoying.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 version is not due for release until Mar 30, 2010 so details are scant at this point. Our local release seems to be the same as the UK version, so currently in terms of DVD releases there seems to be nothing better than our local one especially for English speaking audiences.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is excellent.
A small selection of decent extras is available.
|DVD||Sony DVP-NS708H upscaling to 1080p, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Monitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer|